At this point in my research process, I have stumbled and tripped over hurdles while hitting many walls. I knew when I embarked on this mission that my research topic was more obscure and remote in terms of reach. I didn’t expect the data to fall into my hands or be laid out in front of me with a Google search; however, since then I have learned that much of the information I aimed to display and normalize in discourse was blocked from the grasp of Swedish researchers, and therefore, myself. I failed to locate the data I needed in order to understand the Sami population and different interpretations of Sami indigeneity. While I wanted to understand how indigenous identities progress and envelope different areas of life, different lifestyles, varying places, and different levels of connection, the task became impossible.
I sifted through several scholarly articles until I had finally drafted my plan: it felt strong, it felt clear, and it felt powerful. Finding out a few days later that my mission had come to a halt was indeed frustrating, but nevertheless I insisted that I was not a failure. In fact, I had come across a problem that I didn’t even know existed until then. I had found an erasure of indigenous identity by the Swedish government. While the motives pushing these policies that eliminate understanding of the Swedish Sami population have their reasons and logic, I now feel more than ever the need to unravel the rope that ties these forms of discussion out of reach. I like many digital humanists, had to take a direction based on the data I had available. While I didn’t get to choose my direction on my own, I would not have the perspective that I have acquired had it not been for taking the risk of eagerly engaging with search engines only to come out empty handed–well, empty handed in terms of what I originally hoped for, but full of information from everywhere else that became a challenging task in of itself.
At this moment, I have completed two timelines with details about different policies that have been in place over the past few hundred years alongside discussions based on other researchers and viewpoints, extending the research to compare with the effects of outsider categorization. I plan to create one more timeline and then upload them to a wordpress.com website. The next challenge is finding a theme that works with my idea of contrasting between Sami identity and knowledge and knowledge and definitions laid out by the state. Lacking data on population and identity in this indigenous culture, I want to create infographics and a project that describes the issues that I faced in my research in terms of the issues presented because of these barriers to understanding and knowledge. Without knowledge, one cannot take initiative to bring about change. Without understanding, these initiatives wouldn’t have any reason to be taken. The subject of indigenous cultural erasure and limitation [of rights] through categorization is not unique to the Sami, it is global. While I am researching a small indigenous population in Sweden, my project lies on a bigger scale.
I am confused and at a crossroads: I don’t know where I am going exactly, but I am still moving. I suppose that only these next few weeks (which are flying by way too fast) will tell me where I end up. I am lost and progressing at the same time, and it is a strange feeling. But if there is one thing that I am certain about, it is that my productive failure is a true example of how our losses, our failures, and our mistakes all play a role in getting us to our final destinations, they make us stronger, more capable, more eager to learn, and therefore, stronger scholars.